Sermon for November 22, 2019
The closest thing we have to kings and queens is the royal family of Great Britain. Some of us follow the lives of the royals out of curiosity and fascination. We are amazed that Queen Elizabeth is still so active at 93 years of age. There is intrigue in the lives of Prince Harry and Prince William and their wives, Meghan and Kate. Those who follow the royals know that Prince Andrew, the brother of Charles, ended up in big trouble this week. His ongoing relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and his subsequent lack of remorse showed us once again that kings and queens are fallible. They can easily get caught up in their own self-interest. The fallout from Andrew’s actions caused many financial supporters of his non-profit work to distance themselves from him. There is a report that Andrew has been thrown out of Buckingham Palace, and he will no longer represent the family in public. For us, Andrew’s failings are more of a sidelight because we don’t live under the rule of a king or queen. We don’t have that personal experience.
Human leaders often make mistakes. Some of their mistakes hurt others and sometimes their mistakes impact them individually. Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. The kingship of Jesus is much different than that of human kings or queens. Some things Jesus does remind us of an earthly king but he has done so much more for us. I ask you today to reflect on what the kingship of Jesus means to you personally.
Complaining about leaders is nothing new. The reading from Jeremiah starts with a complaint about the kings, the priests and the prophets of Judah. The leaders who were supposed to be the shepherds of the people lost the kingdom. The Lord will punish them for their evil doings. Jeremiah’s warning applies to everyone in a leadership position today. Every leader is expected to take care of the people. Jeremiah’s words apply to me personally. As a pastor, I am expected to care for everyone in this community. I pray that I will follow God’s will. I pray that God will guide me in everything I do. And I ask forgiveness for the mistakes that I have made. I hope that I am one of those mentioned in Jeremiah, ‘I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them”.
Jeremiah was not speaking just to the leaders. In one way or another, we are all leaders of this church and this community. Jeremiah is asking all of us to do what is best for the community and to support each other. And God is asking the future leaders of this place to put their trust in him.
This passage from Jeremiah is also about hope for the Jewish people. Despite his disdain for leaders, Jeremiah wrote about hope, “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety”. Jesus was a descendant of David. We understand the words to be about Jesus. We carry that hope forward because of our Jewish heritage and our Christian faith. We have hope that God will care for us.
Jesus our king, will rule with justice and righteousness. Jesus will keep us safe. The meaning of Jesus as our king is clearly described in the reading from Colossians. Paul provides us with a long list of the gifts that Jesus gives us as our king. Jesus will make us strong by giving us some of his strength, and power. He will help us to endure everything with patience. Jesus gives us joy because we have been rescued from temptation and those things that leads us astray. He invites us to join the saints of God.
The gifts of strength, patience, joy, everlasting life: These are not gifts that you would receive from an earthly king. Jesus changes the world. He makes each of us special. Let us be thankful for each of these gifts from Jesus. While there are many gifts from Jesus, I am especially moved by the themes we hear about fear. Jeremiah started it when he wrote “and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.”. In the Psalm we learn that “we are free to worship without fear”. Paul wrote that “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son”. Darkness was a place of fear. We speak of Jesus as the Light of Lights. He takes us out of the darkness and brings us into the light.
I think of all the things that we are fearful about. We are afraid that someone will hurt us. We are afraid that we will be killed in an act of mass violence. Some of us are afraid that we will become sick. Some are afraid that a leader will be chosen that will do all the wrong things. We are even afraid of things we think will happen but usually don’t. Through all of this, Jesus takes away our fear. Jesus frees us from fear if we let him. Being freed from fear does not mean that we will never die. It means that Jesus is with us in everything that we do. It means that Jesus loves us and invites us to join him in that eternal kingdom. Jesus gives us comfort in times of trouble. It is just as Psalm 23 says. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for you O Lord are beside me.
In the gospel for today we read the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a strange way to think about Jesus as our king. The Roman soldiers called him king and so did the Pilate, the Roman leader. Even the sign on the cross declared Jesus as the King of the Jews. They thought they were mocking Jesus but instead they told the truth. Their statements and the actions of Jesus teach us that Jesus was and is the perfect king for his people. Jesus is the Lord of righteousness. He is the one who brings us into relationship with God. As our shepherd, Jesus sought out every person. He would not let anyone be lost from God. Jesus searches out every one of us, leaving no one behind. Jesus didn’t sit on a throne and decide what he needed. No, he went out among the people and cured them from their ills. Jesus didn’t let others fight for the rights of his followers. No, he led them himself. Jesus sacrificed his own life to save the life of those who were following him. Jesus gave us the gift of forgiveness just as he offered to those who persecuted him. He said, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. They didn’t understand that they were killing God who came to earth to share our humanity. There is a second story of forgiveness. The thief said “this man has done nothing wrong”. Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. That same forgiveness is given to us as well. Jesus replied “This day you will be with me in Paradise:” Just as Jesus forgave his persecutors and the thief, he forgives us. Whether we sin and know it or sin and don’t realize it until later, Jesus is there to forgive us for what we have done.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed in a concentration camp in World War 2. He sacrificed his life for his faith. He wrote about the sacrifice of Jesus this way, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.” What a wonderful way to contemplate our own mortality. C. S. Lewis spoke about the sacrifice of Jesus this way, “It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.” God is willing to do anything to save us.
Jesus is our King. We worship him and follow him as our king. We are changed by his kingship. He is the one who showed us how to care for others and how we should live our lives to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Let us see the beauty of Jesus as our king. Let us turn our hearts to be with him and allow him to be with us. What might speak to you today? Is it the strength Jesus gives you, the patience, the forgiveness, the freedom or the joy? Maybe it is just his comfort and peace. Today we celebrate and we give thanks and rejoice for Jesus is the King of Kings. Amen.
Last modified on Saturday, 07 December 2019 20:30
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